REVIEW: Wayans Dumb Down VMAs

Likely you’ve seen the promos featuring co-hosts Shawn and Marlon Wayans dressed up as Venus and Serena Williams. Maybe you flipped through the channels Thursday and caught the reruns of last year’s show, “behind the scenes” insights, “TRL” live from the show, the countdown to the pre-show (called the Opening Act), the actual Opening Act, the …. Well, you get the picture.

Those folks at MTV really put on an Oscar-size display hyping their Video Music Awards, but this year’s telecast lacked the style, zip, even poignance of last year’s millennial ceremony.

The performance lineup had its blasts and pyrotechnics, but mostly failed to generate any real excitement. Janet Jackson’s face was masked by her hair throughout the entirety of “Doesn’t Really Matter”; Nelly ran around the stage with his pants hanging to his knees; Sisqo brought his Dru Hill bandmates at the end of his solo number, but it was for little longer than a chorus; and Britney Spears … well, more about her later.

‘N Sync The big winners of the evening, Eminem and ‘N Sync, were more successful, the latter performing with TV screens in front of their heads for half of their medley routine. Blink-182 closed the evening with a bang.

But in case you missed the awards — and you won’t, really, because they’ll rerun it five million more times — here are some highlights:

Rage Against the Machine SOY BOMB RETURNS? During Limp Bizkit’s acceptance speech for Best Rock Video (“Break Stuff”), there was suddenly a commotion. As black-clothed security bounded onstage, everyone saw a lone figure rocking back and forth on the 15-foot high set piece directly behind the podium, close to knocking it over and demolishing the band. The band jokingly urged the man to jump, then continued their speech. Turns out the guy was not a crazed fan, but a crazed rival: Rage Against the Machine bassist Tim C., whose group was nominated in the same category. The commotion disrupted the awards as the show struggled to continue while security tried to coax him down. Tim C. and an event security worker for the band were removed from the venue in handcuffs by police.

MAKING NICE, PART I: Who’d ever have thought a boy band compliment would come from Kid Rock? While there were no grand political or social commentaries made this year, the “Cowboy” singer arrived to present an award with wrestler The Rock and took that time to make a political statement of his own. “No offense to the Backstreet Boys, but the commercial that ‘N Sync did for McDonald’s was way cooler than the one that the Backstreet Boys did for Burger King,” he joked (we assume) with a straight face.

Limp Bizkit MAKING NICE, PART II: Earlier in the day, it was reported that Christina Aguilera closed her run-through to the press so they wouldn’t know the identity of her “secret guest,” who turned out to be none other than Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst. After finishing a boppy performance of “Come on Over Baby,” Durst ran up on stage, grabbed the mike, started rapping and Aguilera began headbanging her peroxide blond-and-red-streaked hair and yelling along.

Why was this weird? Because both were the subject of Eminem’s “The Real Slim Shady,” where the rapper says Durst and MTV VJ Carson Daly of “TRL” fame argued over who Aguilera, um, serviced first. Aguilera was enraged by the lyrics and was upset at Durst for appearing in the accompanying video. Says Eminem of this trend of sunny pop and angry rock putting aside their differences: “I don’t have any differences with them. I just don’t like them.”

Britney Spears MAKING NICE, PART III: Teen divas Aguilera and Spears appeared arm in arm at the close of the evening, the first time anyone’s seen these two buddying up since their days on “The Mickey Mouse Club.” Luckily, they were not there to present Eminem’s Video of the Year Award (which the rapper says he was very relieved about), but to introduce surprise presenter Whitney Houston. Ironically, as frequent jail-bird hubby Bobby Brown appeared to give away the trophy, Houston began singing “Free! Free!”

Eminem THE SCARIEST VISUAL IN NYC: Take your pick. There was Eminem singing “The Real Slim Shady” while leading hundreds of stony lookalikes down the streets of New York, into the Radio City Music Hall and on to the stage (Marlon Wayans called it the “million white man march”). Or there was Spears’ illusional flesh-colored top and pants, which made one pay no attention to her performance but merely wonder, “Is she naked? Is that just see-through? Is she wearing a sequin bikini and nothing else? Is she going Vegas showgirl?”

THE SCARIEST VISUAL IN NYC, PART II: The Wayans brothers, no doubt plucked after their successful “Scary Movie,” bombed as co-hosts. Opening the show with a spoof of last year’s host, Chris Rock, only made us miss him. And in a fit of desperation, Marlon finally dropped his pants and bared his buns to the crowd to close their opening monologue. They also showed taped sketches on Napster and Macy Gray’s ‘fro … which was parlayed into jokes about her “bush” … which, when depicted by Marlon, is not something you want to see on primetime television (or any television, for that matter).

ADVICE FOR NEXT YEAR’S SHOW: Don’t invite DMX to perform (for the second year in a row, the rapper was invited and pulled out at the last minute). Stop with the strange presenter pairings (Lil’ Kim and the thug from “The Sopranos”?). Teach your presenters how to pronounce the winner’s name (Ricky Martin called Aaliyah “Uh-LIE-ah”). And please, please, PLEASE get Jim Carrey to host next year (his ad-lib appearance was the single funniest moment of the night).

At least we won’t see any gross-out spoofs. Wait, nevermind.